Senate Democrats fiercely opposed Richard Grenell’s nomination to become the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and earlier this year, sought his removal after a Breitbart News interview where he said he wanted to empower conservative voices in Europe.
If Democrats had been successful at either endeavor, an accused Nazi labor camp guard would be roaming free in the U.S. today.
Thanks to Grenell’s efforts, the Trump administration deported Jakiw Palij, the last known Nazi collaborator living in the U.S., to Germany early Tuesday morning.
Palij was a former Nazi SS labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland. Thousands of Jews were murdered at the Trawniki labor camp where he worked. After World War II, he lied about being a Nazi and sought asylum inside the U.S. in 1949, and became a U.S. citizen in 1959, living in Queens, New York.
Despite a 2004 removal order, the Bush and Obama administrations were unable to deport him.
“To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Palij. His long-overdue deportation sends a strong message: The United States will not tolerate those who facilitated Nazi crimes and other human rights violations, and they will not find a safe haven on U.S. soil,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.
The deportation would not have happened if Grenell had not convinced Germany to accept him, according to reports.
“I felt very strongly that the German government had a moral obligation and they accepted that,” Grenell said in Berlin on Tuesday.
In prior years, Germany had refused to accept Nazi collaborators, leaving eight inside the U.S. until their deaths.
Complicating matters was that Palij was an ethnic Ukrainian who was born in Poland but had joined the SS. The U.S. revoked his citizenship in 2003 for lying about his affiliation with the SS in 1949, but could not try him for war crimes since the alleged crimes happened outside of the U.S.
But according to Politico’s Europe edition, Grenell had engaged in “months of talks” with Germany’s interior and foreign ministers, both of whom took office earlier this year.
“We knew we needed some sort of new energy and we found that new energy with the new players in the government,” Grenell said. He also appealed to Germany’s moral duty.
Democrats dragged their feet on confirming Grenell. President Trump’s intention to nominate Grenell was first reported in November 2017. He formally nominated Grenell on January 9, 2018.
Democrats complained about his “incendiary” tweets. Some claimed he was “misogynistic.” They complained he was not sufficiently alarmed by Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) had refused to vote to confirm Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, claiming he had made homophobic comments, but voted three times against confirming Grenell, who is openly gay.
The Senate finally confirmed him on April 26, 2018 on a partisan 56-42 vote.
Leftists and so-called “Anti-Fascists,” or “Antifa,” have sought to paint members of the Trump administration and conservatives as “Nazis.” In June, some liberal news outlets tried to tie Grenell as a Nazi supporter for an interview he gave to Breitbart News in June, where he called Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz a “rock star.”
“Kurz — who is critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — heads a right-wing government he formed with the Freedom Party of Austria, which has Nazi roots,” an NPR article said.
Senate Democrats called for an investigation into Grenell, and for his removal after the interview.
Meanwhile, Grenell was working on deporting an actual Nazi.
GOP strategist Arthur Schwartz noted in a tweet that everyday Democrats delayed Grenell’s confirmation was another day that Palij walked free:
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) August 21, 2018